A Man’s Man

I’ve never dated a “man’s man” before. I’m not sure how I avoided it for so long. I knew that they existed, but somehow I managed to never come in contact with one, or if I did come in contact with one I made sure it was a limited encounter. Now I find myself deep into a relationship (a little over 6 months!) with one and it’s fascinating all the things I’m learning about the differences between men and women. Again, this is crazy because I’ve dated people before and my friends have all been in relationships, so you’d think I would know what I’m doing or would at least understand everything because I’ve probably heard/seen it all before, if not from my friends than at least from TV and movies. But no. I feel like this is the first relationship I’ve ever been in and all the hours of television and movies has left me completely ill-prepared to handle a relationship.

My boyfriend is nowhere near any of the characters on Sex and the City. He’s not like any of the guys from Friends. He doesn’t remotely resemble any of the guys in Never Been Kissed, Bridget Jones’ Diary, The Wedding Planner, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days…none. He’s a lifted Chevy driving, gun toting, I’m-never-voting man’s man who doesn’t give compliments but would build, lift, carry or fix anything I need. Sentences he’s used to show that he cares or to try to compliment me have included, “You’re wearing eyeliner today,” which shows that he realizes I’m trying to look nice or I made an effort with my appearance because I went that extra step with my make-up, and my personal favorite,”Your hair looks bright,” which means he likes my highlights.

It’s been a hard adjustment, to say the least. Most of my past relationships have been filled with compliment overload (not because I’m so awesome, but because they’re so sensitive — although I am that awesome). My past relationships have consisted of marathons of who can say “I love you” more than the other person. My past relationships included cards for every holiday and anniversary with emotional novels written on the inside. My past relationships have been suffocating. Of course they didn’t feel suffocating at the time. It was great having someone reassure me 24 times a day that I was, indeed, the best thing to ever happen to him and that his world would never be complete without me. It was just like what Sex and the City and Friends and all the girlie movies had force-fed me. Once you get used to hearing the things they say you start saying the things they say back. Not because you necessarily feel that way, but when you’ve watched that much TV/movies you’re almost conditioned to respond in the same way. “You’re so awesome too; I love you more than life itself.” I’m not saying that everyone who says that to their significant other is being insincere. I’m not going to judge anyone else’s relationship. But I can say that I became conditioned to think that’s what a perfect relationship was and so I went along with it, until I finally realized that it wasn’t going to work for me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that was the part that wasn’t going to work. When I started dating my boyfriend, I kept waiting for all those well-scripted lines and over-the-top gestures that proved his love and devotion. None of that came. He did, however, fix the mirror and the dragging door in my bathroom, my windshield wiper, my vehicle’s battery and the weird noise coming from the humidifier. But I was so stuck in what I thought relationships were supposed to be that I kept overlooking the things he did do and kept waiting for the things I thought everyone else’s boyfriends were doing. It’s crazy that I even thought other girls were getting the movie treatment because all you hear is women complaining about men not being sweet enough or expressing their emotions. I guess because I had been with emotionally-charged guys I didn’t realize other women were dating the other 99% of the male population and receiving nothing but fixed mirrors and new windshield wipers.

There have been multiple times where I’ve thought, “This can’t be what I’m meant to end up with” or “Your hair looks bright!? Who the f*@# says that!?” But then he does something sweet, like washing the dishes while I’m out with a friend. Or he does something that’s probably hard for him because it involves expressing an emotion that doesn’t show how much of a man he is, like writing out “DC [heart] LQ” in pennies on my apartment floor while I’m at work and he’s sleeping in on his day off. I was really upset with him one night and I explained that it hurts my feelings that he never says “I love you” first, it’s always me (for the record, he said “I love you” first first). A few days later I was angry at him for something else (am I ever not angry at him?) and he was leaving to meet one of his friends. As he was standing in the doorway while I was sitting on the couch watching the end of People’s Court, his face scrunched and his body tensed, as if he was about to do something so torturous that every fiber in his body was rejecting it, and he said, “I love you.” Seriously, it looked like he had never been in that kind of pain before. I’m not sure most people would consider this a good thing, but I knew it meant he was trying and he wanted to do things to make me happy. I realize maybe it shouldn’t be that difficult, but whatever, I’m giving him points for it anyway.

So my relationship isn’t at all what I expected, and I could have never prepared for it by studying relationships from any of my favorite shows or movies. In fact, if anything, those shows have been the reason for 90% of the negative thoughts I’ve had about my boyfriend. Those shows are unrealistic and detrimental to my relationship health. Why has it taken me this long to figure that out? I have no idea.

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